Week 7 of the NFL season kicks off on Thursday with an AFC battle between the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns. Both teams are 3-3 on the year, 3-3 against the spread and coming off losses in Week 6. The Broncos dropped their game to the Las Vegas Raiders while the Browns got whipped at home by the undefeated Arizona Cardinals.
Cleveland is a disaster on the offensive side of the ball right now. Kareem Hunt landed on IR, joining designated-to-return Jarvis Landry. Baker Mayfield is going for a second opinion on his shoulder, but even if he plays it will be at far less than 100%. Nick Chubb missed the last game and is already ruled out for Thursday night. Odell Beckham is not practicing and probably needs to do so Wednesday to even have a chance to suit up Thursday. This once-stacked offense also is dealing with injuries to the top-tier offensive line. Teams can overcome one or two bad breaks, but this feels like way too long a list here to ignore.
This line opened Sunday at Browns -5 or -5.5 depending on the book. It was quickly bet down to -3.5, but I’m not sure that is even enough of a move. I do not want to knock anyone for losing to a very solid Arizona Cardinals team, but I will knock them for losing offensive weapons. Chubb was ruled out and Hunt was injured mid game, meaning that the vaunted Browns running game is now in the hands of D'Ernest Johnson, who has just 3 carries on the season. Beckham may or may not play, which also means the WR group is likely to be heavy on guys like Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins. Landry is designated to return from IR, but it’s not sure he will play or how much if he even does.
The Browns do have a good TE room and those guys are going to need to be way more involved in this game. Normally I would think the total should be higher, but I doubt we can expect much scoring here with two solid offenses, two weaker defenses, and a slew of injuries on a short week. The value here is with the Broncos getting +3.5 against a banged-up Browns team. With the total dropped down to 42.5, I will be avoiding any play on that number. Cleveland has been able to score, but the loss of Hunt and Chubb definitely should put that in jeopardy.
Hunt was placed on IR, and Chubb is already ruled out for Thursday night. That leaves D'Ernest Johnson as the main guy in this offense. Baker Mayfield’s shoulder is hanging by a thread right now, and the WR group may be without Landry and Beckham this week. We saw a half-dozen backup running backs score touchdowns last week. In other words, it’s less about Johnson’s talent level and more about the fact that he is going to see volume. The Browns are at home and favored, two things that tend to be positive for starting running back production. The browns are projected for 22 points, which equates to 2-3 touchdowns. Given how involved the running game has been for them all season, I think getting +130 at BetMGM is a steal. This same bet on PointsBet pays just +100.
With the Browns so banged up, the secondary pieces of this team are all interesting to me Thursday. At plus money, we will create a profit if either of these two guys get into the end zone. Odell Beckham left the game Sunday and was a DNP in practice Monday and Tuesday. Even if he plays, the risk of reinjury is high. If he doesn’t play, Donovan Peoples-Jones will slot in as the No. 1 WR like he did after the Beckham injury. Peoples-Jones had 4/101/2 Sunday with 5 targets. One of them was a 57-yard Hail Mary to end the first half, but even without that he caught 3 of his other 4 targets for 44 yards and a touchdown. Beckham saw 8 targets in that game despite leaving early, which means we could see DPJ bump up to 6-7 targets and be the de facto No. 1 WR. Books and bettors are still backing the Browns here, which means they still have faith multiple touchdowns will be scored.
Jerry Jeudy is still not ready to go, which means Tim Patrick should remain a big part of this offense. He played over 82% of the snaps last week, second only to Courtland Sutton at 84% on the team. No one else saw more than 43% of the snaps, so he is solidified as a contributor on the field. He caught 3 of 6 balls thrown his way last week for 42 yards and a TD. The week before he caught 7 of 9 for 84 yards. I do not hate his anytime touchdown number either as you can find that in the +250 to +275 range, but I think the over 3.5 catches is the much safer bet.